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Kids buoy spirits of cancer patients

The Got Hope Club at Hardy Oak Elementary visits hospitals to bring cheer and goodwill

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The Got Hope Club at Hardy Oak Elementary School is dedicated to making the lives of cancer patients better through hospital visits, fundraisers and other activities. They include Makayla Tristan (back, left), Austin VandeVate, Evelyn Stubbs, Connor Mayo, Gabriella Hernandez and Claire Swinney; and (front) Kendal Martinez Lee. Courtesy photo

Won’t let their young ages fool you — the Got Hope Club at Hardy Oak Elementary School is giving adult-sized doses of cheer to cancer patients.

Open to third-, fourth- and fifth-graders, the association honors former Hardy Oak student and cancer victim Kaylee Jordan Carew by making hospital visits to those stricken by the disease.

Group leaders Evelyn Stubbs, Claire Swinner and Milla Torres said the schoolchildren show those in pain they’re not forgotten.

“It’s fun bringing hope to people and for them to feel inspired by us and to kind of stay strong through hard times,” Claire said.

The 45-member club is an offshoot of The Got Hope Organization, started by Carew when she was a Reagan High School freshman. After a three-year battle with leukemia, she died Dec. 6, 2015, at age 16, but her dream lives on, club members said.

Extending to Hardy Oak two years ago, Evelyn, Claire and Milla joined when they were in third grade.

“It started with Kaylee’s mission, which was specifically initially pediatric cancer, but has branched out to other cancers,” said teacher and club co-sponsor Melissa McDonald.

The parent organization’s website notes members try to “lend support, build bonds and bring ‘hope and smiles’ to children and teens.”

The elementary school participants journey to hospitals, but also take part in club activities and fundraisers to help oncologic endeavors. They’ve hosted an Easter egg hunt at the North Central Baptist Hospital playroom, distributed Valentine’s Day cards in February, plus offered cocoa bars and manned a lemonade stand.

The club last year also delivered Thanksgiving pies to cancer patients at Methodist Stone Oak Hospital.

“We gave a woman hope by giving her a note card,” Milla said.

During the academic year, the club meets monthly, and also visits a hospital. On these trips, members play games with patients, and bring treats to brighten the day.

To assist patients, the Got Hope Club contacted Samantha Byrnes at North Central for guidance. The certified child-life specialist provides care for hospitalized youngsters and their loved ones.

“I use interventions to help children and families cope with the challenges of hospitalization including education, procedural preparation and play therapy,” Byrnes said.

The club members play with the cancer patients, giving the latter a break from dwelling on their illness and injuries. Byrnes said the positive experience helps ease a patient’s anxiety during a stay.

“We want to give them hope to get through the pain,” Evelyn said.

The schoolchildren’s presence has a positive impact on the sick, their families and the hospital staff, Byrnes said.

Educators noted the club also enhances the students’ organizational, critical-thinking and interpersonal skills.

“This club spreads the ‘pay-it-forward’ attitude because it uplifts the people they serve,” Byrnes said.

“They have so much good and hope they want to bring to the community and this gives them the opportunity to do it,” McDonald added.

Even as they advance to the next grade, the three group leaders want to convince more of their peers to ease cancer patients’ difficulties and provide the ailing a better day.

“Some people aren’t lucky enough, but we want to give them hope,” Claire said.

For more, call 210-407-3600 or visit www.thegothope.org.

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